Happy National Handwriting Day! January 23rd was so designated because it's the birthday of John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, whose bold signature graces our Declaration of Independence and became an eponym for a signature.

Cursive handwriting is a rarity anymore. I learned it in 4th grade, when it was still commonplace. As I remember it, it was a year-long process, and certain letters were just weird. Within a few years, I had given up on cursive and wrote in a somewhat slanted manuscript that wasn't joined up. By the time my kids learned it in school, we were told that many other schools had dropped cursive in favor of spending classroom time on other subjects. Many of today's teachers never learned cursive, much less learned how to teach it.

But now a Tulsa educator has come up with a way for students to reap the benefits of learning cursive with a much smaller investment of time.


Some time ago, an adult literacy student asked his teacher, Linda Shrewsbury (pictured above), to teach him cursive so he could learn to sign his name. She realized that the traditional letter-by-letter elementary school approach would be frustrating for an adult student, so she looked for a more streamlined approach. Writing the lower-case cursive alphabet out on a large sheet, she noticed four common patterns -- ovals, loops, swings, and mounds. Master the four patterns and you could quickly learn to combine them to form the entire alphabet.


When I explained the patterns to Josh, his response was intuitive and fast. He caught on to forming the entire lowercase alphabet in 45 minutes and became so enthusiastic about his success that learning his uppercase initials was easy. After just one session, Josh signed his name.

After teaching more students from many different background all with similar results, I realized I was onto something--a greatly simplified way to help students master cursive handwriting. CursiveLogic's process teaches the entire lowercase alphabet in four lessons, greatly shortening the time required to master cursive handwriting.

Shrewsbury, who homeschooled her children and has taught in various settings from 1st grade to college, teamed up with her daughter Prisca LeCroy (who homeschools her children in Dallas) to turn this approach into a full-fledged curriculum, called CursiveLogic.

CursiveLogicLogo.pngA small number of prototype copies of the student workbook have been printed, but Cursive Logic has launched a $25,000 Kickstarter project to fund a full commercial print run of student workbooks and teacher manuals and, if enough funds are raised, to develop instructional videos. The project has been honored as a "Kickstarter Staff Pick."

Is learning cursive just good for signing checks and contracts? Dr. William Klemm, Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, wrote in a Psychology Today blog entry, that cursive has benefits for brain development:

Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn "functional specialization"--that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice....

The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids--but maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.

Prof. Klemm recently reviewed the CursiveLogic curriculum and was delighted:

Learning cursive provides crucial benefit to children at an age when they need it most: a sense of involvement and ownership, hand-eye coordination, patience, and self-control.

Now comes a short manual, "Cursive Logic" by Linda Shrewsbury that shows teachers and parents how to teach cursive the way it was done when I was a kid. I recognize many of the key elements that I learned from my 7th grade penmanship teacher: the proper way to hold a pencil, the role of forearm movement, and the need for deliberate practice on ruled paper. But this manual has an important innovation: a logic that groups the alphabet into four shape categories that share certain common movements.

I hope this book can keep cursive in the school curriculum. Educators no longer have the excuse that cursive is too hard to learn and that they can't find teachers who can teach it. Write on!

Perhaps you'd like to teach yourself or a loved one cursive using the CursiveLogic method. The only way to get a copy of the workbook is to help fund its printing through Kickstarter. For donations starting at $25, the reward includes a copy of the workbook, with more copies at higher donation levels. From $500 and up, you get a piece of a page in the first 10,000 copies printed for your own "tribute to the cursive tradition." As with all Kickstarter projects, pledges are only collected if the full amount is pledged. CursiveLogic is seeking $25,000 in pledges by February 19; they're already over a quarter of the way toward their goal.

Tonight, Thursday, January 22, 2015, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) will present the second in a series of programs on the fundamental principles undergirding liberty and the rule of law: "Why States Matter." The program will be held at the Herman and Kate Kaiser branch of the Tulsa Library. The library is in the northeast part of LaFortune Park, on Hudson just south of 51st Street.

The American Founders invented "federalism." Learn what federalism is, how it became part of the Constitution, and what has happened to it over the last century. Also, find out how we can use what is left of federalism to revive this key constitutional structure.

This is the second in OCPA's four-part series, The Rule of Law and Liberty. (View our first program online: The Rule of Law and Liberty: Why the Constitution matters.) Our programs in January and February will also feature a briefing on the upcoming Oklahoma legislative session.

For more information or to register by phone, call 405-602-1667.

Trent England, who designed and presents The Rule of Law and Liberty, is OCPA's David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow for the Advancement of Liberty. Formerly with the Freedom Foundation in Washington state and The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Trent has written and spoken across the country on constitutional law and history.

Trent also contributed to the We The People curriculum and is the founder and director of Save Our States, which focuses on defending the Electoral College.

Tulsa Community College has for several years offered a program to Tulsa County high school graduates called Tulsa Achieves: Free tuition and fees for up to 63 credit hours or three years, which ever comes first. To qualify, you have to have a C average or better in high school and enroll in TCC for the fall after you graduate.

These scholarships are primarily funded by the property taxpayers of Tulsa County and the sales and income taxpayers of Oklahoma out of the TCC budget:

The FY 14 budget includes the following components: approximately 34.4 percent from local appropriations; 32 percent from state appropriations; 31.6 percent from tuition and fees; and 2 percent from grants and other sources.

So the same families that send their young adults to TCC on a Tulsa Achieves scholarship are paying the property taxes (either directly as owners or indirectly as renters) and sales taxes to fund the scholarship. The same board of directors that pays for the scholarships are also in control of institutional costs. If the board were to allow spending to spiral out of control, the same people would have to decide whether to make up the difference by cutting the number or scope of Tulsa Achieves scholarships, raising tuition, or seeking outside funding. Raise tuition or cut scholarships too much, and students drop out. There's no disconnect between funding and spending, and that creates an incentive to keep costs under control.

President Obama has proposed federal funding to cover all community college tuition. I haven't seen a description of the funding formula, but the effect is almost certain to be the same as any situation in which a third party is paying the bill.

Right now TCC tuition plus fees is about $130 per credit hour, not counting flat fees on top of that. 30 credit hours per year is roughly what you'd need to take in order to graduate in two years with an associate's degree. So for the sake of example let's round it off to an even $4000 per academic year in tuition and fees.

So the federal government comes along and says we'll cover community college tuition and fees for qualified high school graduates. TCC would realize that they could phase out the Tulsa Achieves program or end it altogether. They wouldn't lose any students because the net cost to the student will remain the same, but now TCC would have an extra $4000 a year per student to play with. They could raise salaries, increase administrative perks, pay for more conference travel, build fancier facilities.

Then, suppose TCC should raise tuition and fees from $4000 to $5000 -- a 20% jump and far faster than the rate of inflation. A few adult learners may yelp, but not much, since they're only taking a course or two, not a full load. The students who qualify for free tuition from the federal government won't feel it at all. And now TCC would have even more money to spend on salaries, perks, travel, and facilities. They would regard it as "other people's money," even though it's really money ultimately but indirectly coming from Tulsa taxpayers and from the grandchildren who will have to repay the money the feds borrowed to fund "free" community college.

With a federal guarantee of free community college, would there be any pressure on TCC to control costs? No. If the federal government tried to limit reimbursement under the program to the original tuition baseline, there would be protests that the government is going back on its promise of free tuition.

I don't know how many Tulsa Achieves students have attained two-year degrees or gone on to four-year degrees. I don't know how many of those students would not have received a degree without the help of Tulsa Achieves. But I do know that Tulsa County residents are getting more educational opportunity for their tax dollars because the same board that determines the scope and size of the grants also has to account for the cost that those grants have to cover.

MORE: The New York Times' David Brooks points out that retention is a much bigger problem than tuition cost for underprivileged students trying to get an education:

The problem is that getting students to enroll is neither hard nor important. The important task is to help students graduate. Community college drop out rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.

Spending $60 billion over 10 years to make community college free will do little to reduce that. In the first place, community college is already free for most poor and working-class students who qualify for Pell grants and other aid. In 2012, 38 percent of community-college students had their tuition covered entirely by grant aid and an additional 33 percent had fees of less than $1,000.

The Obama plan would largely be a subsidy for the middle- and upper-middle-class students who are now paying tuition and who could afford to pay it in the years ahead....

In short, you wouldn't write government checks for tuition. You'd strengthen structures around the schools. You'd focus on the lived environment of actual students and create relationships and cushions to help them thrive.

We've had two generations of human capital policies. Human Capital 1.0 was designed to give people access to schools and other facilities. It was based on the 1970s liberal orthodoxy that poor people just need more money, that the government could write checks and mobility will improve.

Human Capital 2.0 is designed to help people not just enroll but to complete school and thrive. Its based on a much more sophisticated understanding of how people actually live, on the importance of social capital, on the difficulty of living in disorganized circumstances. The new research emphasizes noncognitive skills -- motivation, grit and attachment -- and how to use policy levers to boost these things.

The tuition piece of the Obama proposal is Human Capital 1.0. It is locked in 1970s liberal orthodoxy. Congress should take the proposal, scrap it and rededicate the money toward programs that will actually boost completion, that will surround colleges, students and their families with supporting structures. We don't need another program that will lure students into colleges only to have them struggle and drop out.

Brooks mentions several specific challenges:

Community colleges are not sticky places. Many students don't have intimate relationships with anyone who can guide them through the maze of registration, who might help bond them to campus....

A quarter of college students nationwide have dependent children. Even more students at community colleges do. Less than half of community colleges now have any day-care facilities. Many students drop out because something happens at home and there's no one to take care of the kids.

My late mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, saw this need many years ago when she began working with "displaced homemakers" -- women who found themselves suddenly widowed or divorced and in need of a job. She founded the Benton County, Arkansas, Single Parent Scholarship Fund and helped begin similar funds statewide and nationwide. The fund helps with costs beyond tuition -- it may be books, childcare, or car repairs -- anything that might otherwise force a student to drop out. The aid is provided in the context of relationships with mentors and peers. Because the funds are raised and distributed by a private organization, funds are distributed according to compassionate judgment rather than rigid rules. Thousands of students in Benton County have been helped since the program's inception.

Rather than spend money our federal government would have to borrow and establish another federal bureaucracy, it would be better for state and local higher education officials to encourage more of these private scholarship funds to be established.

If you've driven down Lewis Avenue between 51st and 61st Street in the last week, you might have been as surprised as I was to see a church in that part of town advertising its 100th anniversary. Southern Hills Baptist Church doesn't look a day over 60, and indeed it was in 1955 that the church moved to its current location, about the time that US 66 was rerouted to Skelly Drive just north of 51st and Tulsa's southward suburban spread reached this area. The church's history is a reminder of the rural communities -- shops, churches, and homes clustered around a rural schoolhouse, acting as a nucleus for a farming community -- that were absorbed by the expanding city and in some cases erased from the map.

According to the Southern Hills Baptist Church website:

Southern Hills Baptist Church was founded January 17, 1915 as Bethel Baptist Church following a meeting of the delegates of First Baptist Church of Tulsa, OK who were led by Pastor L. E. Floyd. The meeting was held at the Bethel Union School House located at 51st and Lewis Ave. At the first meeting, articles of faith and a church covenant were adopted along with the times of meeting being the first and third Sundays of each month. The Reverend James T. Brattin of Barry Co., Mo. was elected moderator and George Lane of Tulsa, appointed church clerk. Following the meeting the 21 area families were presented as founding membership.

The church continued to meet at Bethel Union School House until 1924 when the congregation voted to purchase 2 ½ acres of land on the southeast corner of 51st and Lewis Ave. A brown brick two story building was constructed that would serve as the place of worship for the members of Bethel Baptist Church for the next 32 years. The church survived tough times during the depression of the 1930's and the 2nd World War. During this period, pastors were hard to find and keep.

Between 1942 and 1952, many changes occurred. There was a mortgage burning in 1944; installation of the first organ in 1947; a parsonage was built on the property in 1950; the first church bus purchased in 1950; the first library started in 1952; and later, in December, 1954, due to a changing world, the first locks were installed on the church building.

The first mention of a possible move to a new location was made in January, 1952 and a committee was appointed to seek a location. A five acre parcel of land at 56th and Lewis Avenue, just a half mile south, was purchased in 1955 for a new building and the name was changed on May 1, 1955 from Bethel Baptist Church to Southern Hills Baptist Church. June 8, 1955 began a period of worship in the "Canvas Cathedral" as the church purchased a 50' x 80' tent for use during the transitional period. The old Bethel Baptist Church site was sold in November 1955 to George Fikes of Fikes Food Stores. Ground breaking for a new sanctuary and educational space at 56th and Lewis took place on April 15, 1956.

A web search turned up a cached photo of Bethel Baptist Church at its old location. From the terrain and shadows, I'm guessing that it faced Lewis and sat some distance south of 51st.


The history above mentions Bethel Union School as the site of the church's founding. The school sat on the northeast corner of 51st and Lewis.

The first newspaper reference I can find to Bethel Union school is on September 14, 1906, in the first anniversary edition of the Tulsa Daily World. The school had hosted a meeting of the Indian Territory Republican committee. The paper called the group "the voice of the farmer" and said that "Republicanism is much in evidence in that part of the country." (The same front page celebrates the awarding of the first street railway franchise in Tulsa to Charles H. Bosler of Dayton with construction of between four to six miles of track for $50,000 to $75,000.

The "remodeled and enlarged" Bethel Union school was dedicated on September 6, 1914. It had been a one-room schoolhouse, but the "public spirited [school board] members" decided to make it a graded school, adding a second room and constructing it so that the two rooms could be joined to serve as an auditorium and host church services on Sundays.

A July 26, 1916, news story reports that the Bethel Union schoolhouse had been damaged by the explosion of a truck carrying nitroglycerin, and the board voted to build a new brick structure to replace the damaged building.

News stories frequently mention the school as the site of agricultural meetings, for example, this "Farmers' Day" meetings hosted by J. P. Harter, the Tulsa County government farmer at Bethel Union and Alsuma schools on December 13, 1912. On July 12, 1913, the school hosted a series of speakers urging good roads for Tulsa County, including Judge L. M. Poe, who was to speak on "good roads without bond issues."

An inset of the 1937 state highway department map of Tulsa County shows Lewis as a paved road leading to Jenks, and, around 51st and Lewis, five businesses, a school (Bethel Union), a church (Bethel Baptist), and numerous gravel and dirt side roads lined with homes. Note that Joe Creek, cutting diagonally from near 51st and Harvard to near 61st and Lewis, was then labeled Jill Creek.


OKGenWeb has photos of Bethel Union school's front door in May 1940 and the school bus in front of the building

Many years later -- perhaps after consolidation with the Tulsa school district -- Bethel Union School became known as Paul Revere Elementary School. A blogger recalls walking north on Atlanta Place to Paul Revere School and encountering hundreds of monarch butterflies one autumn morning.

My 3rd Grade Little League team played (and almost beat!) Revere's team in the spring of 1972, but because they had no green space big enough for a baseball diamond, we played the game at (if I recall correctly) Heller Park.

While Paul Revere School had been spared demolition in the 1950s -- it was wedged between Skelly Bypass (I-44) and 51st Street -- it was demolished in the 1980s to make way for Western National Bank's tower, which in turn fell to I-44 widening a few years ago.

There are few traces of the existence of the Bethel Union community. Some of the streets -- Columbia Pl., 49th St., 47th St., line up with the 1937 map -- and you may find a few homes along those streets that look to be from that era, old farmhouses that survived the subdivision of their pastures and fields. Similar road patterns can be seen around 11th and Memorial, 11th and 129th East Ave., 11th and Lynn Lane Rd., 61st and Mingo, to name a few that come to mind.

From the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog:

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R., Okla.), who just took the reins of the panel, said he is open to considering raising the gas tax as a way to help pay for the dwindling Highway Trust Fund that keeps up the nation's roads and other transportation infrastructure.

"Everything is on the table," Mr. Inhofe said in a Wednesday briefing with reporters to preview his committee agenda. He said his top priority is passing a long-term transportation bill, whose spending runs out at the end of May.

With gasoline prices at lows not seen since 2009, some political observers and business executives say now is the ideal time to raise the 18.4 cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4 cent-a-gallon tax on diesel fuel, which haven't increased since 1993. The taxes are the main source of revenue for the highway trust fund.

Mr. Inhofe didn't say he supports raising the gas tax, and he refutes referring to it as such. "It's not a tax," Mr. Inhofe said. "It's a user fee."

He also said this period of cheap gas isn't really a window of opportunity given it could close sooner than Congress is going to act. "You don't know what's going to happen to the price of gas," Mr. Inhofe said.

It doesn't sound like Sen. Inhofe is gung-ho for boosting the Federal gas tax, but he's more open to the idea than he should be. If the gas tax is collected as a "user fee" for those who travel our interstate highway system, then the money collected should be spent only on the interstate highway system. If lower gas prices create an opportunity to raise gas taxes, leave that to state and local governments, who can then prioritize spending among local needs -- widening local highways, rebuilding bridges, installing sidewalks, building bike lanes, funding mass transit.

Sending locally-collected money to Washington just so congressmen and senators can send it back home is a ridiculous game. The money comes back with strings attached, is often politically directed, and often gets spent on wasteful projects that are only pursued because the money is "federal" and treated like a windfall. (I-40 relocation in Oklahoma City is a prime example.)

I'd love to see our new Republican majorities reduce the federal gas tax and federal diesel tax to what is required to fund upkeep on the two-digit interstates -- the trunk roads that are the backbone for shipment of goods around the US. Then states can choose -- or not -- to raise local fuel taxes to match the cut in federal taxes.

You may notice this blog becoming more of a weblog in the purest sense of the word -- collections of links of interest, logged here mainly for my future reference. With that here are a collection of links and some pull quotes about Al Sharpton and the societal trends that have fueled his rise and sustain his continued clout.

New York Post reports "How Sharpton gets paid to not cry 'racism' at corporations":

"Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn't come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group that has produced a book on Sharpton.

And Sharpton, who now boasts a close relationship with Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio, is in a stronger negotiating position than ever.

"Once Sharpton's on board, he plays the race card all the way through," said a source who has worked with the Harlem preacher. "He just keeps asking for more and more money."...

NAN had repeatedly and without success asked GM for donations for six years beginning in August 2000, a GM spokesman told The Post. Then, in 2006, Sharpton threatened a boycott of GM over the planned closing of an African-American-owned dealership in The Bronx. He picketed outside GM's Fifth Avenue headquarters. GM wrote checks to NAN for $5,000 in 2007 and another $5,000 in 2008....

Sharpton landed a gig as a $25,000-a-year adviser to Pepsi after he threatened a consumer boycott of the soda company in 1998, saying its ads did not portray African-Americans. He held the position until 2007.

New York Daily News reported that Walmart, AT&T, and Verizon were among companies donating to Al Sharpton's non-profit at a fundraiser to get the National Action Network out of debt. The fundraiser brought in a projected $1 million.

Newsmax has the list of 16 Facts About Al Sharpton the Media Won't Tell You. It summarizes Sharpton's problems with unpaid taxes, inflammatory language, misuse of non-profit funds, among other issues.

Twitchy: 'Unembarrassable'? Why was Al Sharpton's Viagra prescription found in Sandy Rubenstein's home? The subhed in the New York Daily News:

The 70-year-old lawyer was accused of preying on an unconscious 42-year-old woman, a top official in Al Sharpton's National Action Network, in his Upper East Side apartment in October. During an investigation into Rubenstein's home, officials found a prescription for the sex pill Viagra issued in Sharpton's name, a police source told the Daily News.

The Smoking Gun investigates Al Sharpton's years as a confidential informant for the FBI in the agency's investigation of organized crime.

The OCTF investigation, which spanned more than two years, ended in June 1989 with the indictment of five Genovese crime family figures on enterprise corruption charges. But only the younger Pagano ended up in the dock. His father, who had been seriously ill during the course of the OCTF probe, died two months before a grand jury accused his son and other underlings of engaging in mob staples like loan sharking, extortion, and gambling.

Each defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to various criminal charges, so there was no public presentation of evidence against the men. Which meant that OCTF prosecutors did not have to further expound on the indictment's allegation that Daniel Pagano "solicited the use of a bank account of the National Youth Movement" to launder money.

Sharpton, who controlled that bank account, was not charged in connection with the Pagano investigation....

In return for the endorsements, [NY Sen. Alphonse] D'Amato--who was easily reelected--steered a $500,000 federal grant to Curington and Sharpton for the establishment of an anti-drug program in Brooklyn. According to a grant application, Curington, whose prior narcotics experience landed him on a DEA list of "Class 1" traffickers, was slated to serve as the program's executive director. Sharpton and Curington, the application noted, also planned to secure an additional $750,000 in "corporate support" from eight record labels.

The duo's plan foundered, however, when officials at a Brooklyn church changed their mind about allowing a drug treatment facility to operate from a church building. As a result, the $500,000 grant was later canceled.


After 15 years, Tawana Brawley has paid only 1% of what she owes the prosecutor she falsely accused of rape and hate crimes. Sharpton has no regrets:

Her story of being attacked, scrawled with racial slurs, smeared with feces and left beside a road wrapped in a plastic bag made front pages across the nation -- especially after the Rev. Al Sharpton took up her case....

Over the years, critics, politicians and news media have demanded that Sharpton apologize for his role and publicly condemn Brawley. But Sharpton has refused, perpetuating the ill will that many still hold for him.

John Hayward writes about the dependence of collectivism on the presumption of guilt:

This presumption of guilt is absolutely crucial to collectivism. The Left must teach its subjects to think of themselves as criminals. That's the only way law-abiding people will endure levels of coercive power that would normally require specific accusations, a fair trial, and the possibility of appeals. Social-justice "crimes" can be prosecuted without any of those things. There is no appeal from the sentence, and no statute of limitations on the crimes, as any left-winger who thinks today's American citizens need to suffer for the historical offense of slavery will be happy to explain to you. There's no evidence you can present in your defense, for the Left has read your mind, and knows better than you what demons lurk in its recesses....

It's very convenient to declare that you don't have to engage with dissenting ideas because they all drip from forked tongues, but there's more to the liberal presumption of social guilt than that. It also flatters their egos - the Anointed Ones are the only members of society who aren't guilty of prejudice, even when they display the most corrosive prejudice towards the groups they don't like. Most importantly, it illuminates their vision of a righteous elite exercising vast power to force virtue upon miserable, unworthy citizens, who cannot be left unregulated to indulge their monstrous impulses. If you think micro-regulators should be running society, and government should be taxing money away from the proletariat before they hurt themselves with it, then by definition you don't think very much of the people you're planning to tax and regulate. You must see them as thieves, exploiters, and haters... their vision too short, and too clouded with bigotry, to make important decisions about the fate of the nation. Leftists have a boundless appetite for stories that reinforce their low opinion of the people they dominate... and to be honest, some of the dominated are hungry for reassurance that they did the right thing by ceding control of their lives, and the lives of their neighbors, to the Left. People who have relinquished their freedom must learn to think poorly of themselves, if they are to sleep well at night.

Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution writes about the "'Equality' Racket":

It doesn't matter how much evidence there is that some groups work harder in school, perform better, and spend more postgraduate years studying to acquire valuable skills in medicine, science, or engineering. If the economic end results are unequal, that is treated as a grievance against those with better outcomes, and a sign of an "unfair" society.

The rhetoric of clever people often confuses the undeniable fact that life is unfair with the claim that a given institution or society is unfair.

Children born into families that raise them with love and with care to see that they acquire knowledge, values, and discipline that will make them valuable members of society have far more chances of economic and other success in adulthood than children raised in families that lack these qualities....

What is a problem for children raised in families and communities that do not prepare them for productive lives can be a bonanza for politicians, lawyers, and assorted social messiahs who are ready to lead fierce crusades, if the price is right.

Many in the media and among the intelligentsia are all too ready to go along, in the name of seeking equality. But equality of what?

Equality before the law is a fundamental value in a decent society. But equality of treatment in no way guarantees equality of outcomes....

Regardless of the actual causes of different capabilities and rewards in different individuals and groups, political crusades require a villain to attack -- a villain far removed from the voter or the voter's family or community. Lawyers must likewise have a villain to sue. The media and the intelligentsia are also attracted to crusades against the forces of evil.

But whether as a crusade or a racket, a confused conception of equality is a formula for never-ending strife that can tear a whole society apart -- and has already done so in many countries.

Glenn Reynolds examines the appeal of tribalism despite the advantages of civil society:

Tribalism is the default state of humanity: The tendency to defend our own tribe even when we think it's wrong, and to attack other tribes even when they're right, just because they're other. Societies that give in to the temptations of tribalism -- which are always present -- wind up spending a lot of their energy on internal strife, and are prone to disintegrate into spectacular factionalism and infighting, often to the point of self-destruction.

Societies that temper those tribal tendencies, replacing them with the mechanisms of civil society, do much better. But there is much opportunity for political empire-building in tribalism, and if the benefits of stoking tribal fires exceed the costs for political actors, then expect political actors to pour gasoline on even the smallest spark.

That's pretty much what's happened in the last few months, and the results haven't been good. In America, we have both a police culture that is too quick to escalate force, and an aggressive victim culture, embodied by the loathsome Al Sharpton, that seeks to portray every police use of force, at least against members of the wrong racial and ethnic groups, as excessive.

A healthy society would stigmatize, marginalize and shun the tribalizers. Sharpton, who has incited racial violencein the past, would not have a network TV show (even on MSNBC), and would not be treated as a legitimate civil rights spokesman....

In a healthy civil society, people can deal with others without worrying about tribalism, confident that disputes will be settled by neutral and reasonably fair procedures overseen by neutral and fair people. In a tribalized society, what matters is what tribe you belong to, and who is on top at the moment.

Healthy civil societies are a lot better places to live. They're richer, safer and more peaceful. But healthy civil societies don't provide the opportunity for political power grabs, for payoffs and for extortion that tribalized societies do. It's no wonder that so many political figures favor tribalism. The question is, how long will the rest of us allow them to get away with it?

John Hayward on the scandal double-standard, contrasting Congressman Michael Grimm, who is resigning in disgrace, with Al Sharpton:

So Grimm under-reported a million in wages and receipts, and he's being purged from the circles of power, quite possibly en route to the pokey. Al Sharpton owes over four and a half million dollars in actual taxes, and it's no big deal. He can stroll into the White House for countless visits without having to worry about the bloated, politicized Internal Revenue Service nabbing him at the door.

Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine has reversed himself and announced his opposition to John Boehner's re-election as Speaker. But other Republicans are sticking with Bridenstine's earlier analysis that Boehner cannot be beat.

But critics of the anti-Boehner rebellion who say the announced challengers -- Louis Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida -- cannot win the speakership themselves are missing some historical perspective. Gohmert, Yoho and company can get what they seek -- someone besides Boehner as speaker -- without becoming speaker themselves. They don't have to be viable alternatives. They are stalking horses.

The most famous example in recent history of this scenario was in the 1990 ouster of UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Despite leading the Conservatives to a landslide third general election victory in 1987, she was losing popularity over the "community charge" (the so-called "poll tax"), and pro-European-integration Tories saw an opportunity to take her down. Thatcher had handily defeated a challenge the previous year by a back-bench MP, but enough votes were cast against her to reveal some weakness.

In 1990, former cabinet member and rabid Europhile Michael Heseltine had no chance of being elected party leader, but he challenged Thatcher for the leadership as a stalking horse. Thatcher won a majority on the first round of balloting, but missed outright election under the rules by four votes, forcing a second round. Wounded by the sizeable minority opposed to her continuing as leader, Thatcher was persuaded by allies to withdraw, which opened the door for John Major to enter the race and win. Heseltine finished a distant second behind Major. Although Major was an ally of Thatcher, he was considered more conciliatory and more open to bringing Britain (disastrously) into the European exchange-rate mechanism. Thatcher's enemies got their way, even though their initial challenger did not become prime minister.

The same scenario would likely play out if Boehner failed to get the majority on the first ballot. Unable to win a majority of the vote, he would have to withdraw, and the Republican caucus would have to find a candidate that everyone, especially the anti-Boehner rebels, would be willing to support. The resulting compromise candidate would likely be someone who supported Boehner in the first round but is seen by his colleagues as a stronger leader and negotiator.


The Washington Post is keeping a whip count.

The Daily Signal reports on the last time a Speaker election went beyond the first round and lists other notable challenges to official party nominees for Speaker:

The last time Congress failed to immediately elect a speaker of the House was 1923. Still chafing from the heavy-handed speakership of Joe Cannon, the progressive wing of the Republican Party forced nine ballots before allowing Frederick Gillet to become speaker in exchange for policy compromises.

Freedom Works explains why House Republicans should replace Boehner and lists Boehner's 10 worst votes as speaker.

Challenger Louis Gohmert gives Breitbart Texas a list of John Boehner's broken promises to conservative congressmen.

Erick Erickson says Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan is the man who could rally opposition and block Boehner. Will he be Horatius at the bridge? And Erickson calls out Republican freshmen who are backing away from their campaign pledges to oppose Boehner:

First, in the whirlwind of Washington you will often be pressured to just do something. That something is always constructed in a way to act as opposed to refrain from acting. Sometimes, however, not acting is a more powerful thing to do.

Second, remember that you are accountable to your constituents. You work for them, not the other way around. You are their employee and your job review comes up on a two year schedule in the House and a six year schedule in the Senate.

Third, and above all else, remember that there is a God and one day you will stand before Him. Long after the voters ceased assesses you, you will stand in judgment. This world will pass away, but what you do here will be measured on that last day. Eternal things matter most and selling your soul to Washington at the expense of God or your family will eventually catch up to you.

Pollster Pat Caddell says that his polling shows 60% of Republicans want a new Speaker and a third of Republicans are ready to bolt from the party, believing that the party leadership does not share their views and values.

Matt K. Lewis says you have to trade favors and build loyalty over a long period of time to be successful as an "insurgent." He points to the groundwork that Newt Gingrich laid for his rise to Minority Whip and then Speaker.

What is more, Gingrich began working with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in 1979 as part of an effort to take the majority, and later took over GOPAC. Both organizations were focused on helping elect new Members to Congress. This means that newly-elected Republicans would be indebted (and thus loyal) to Gingrich. Aside from his brilliance as a visionary thinker, Gingrich spent years assiduously cultivating support and planning for a majority.

Now ask yourself this: Is there a serious conservative House Member today who does so many favors for Republican candidates that they will be loyal to him when they are elected? By definition, the people interested in accumulating power -- and capable of pulling off this sort of logistical feat -- tend to be establishment types. It's tempting to say this is a Catch-22, but it doesn't have to be this way. As Morton Blackwell says, "You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win."

Nevertheless, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the ability to win a leadership position -- and one's commitment to ideological purity. Some of this is probably structural and self selecting, but I can't help lamenting the fact that the most charismatic and inspirational conservatives also tend to be among the least organized.

As a newly-sworn-in freshman in 2013, Bridenstine voted against Boehner and for then-Majority Leader, now ex-Congressman, Eric Cantor instead, one of 12 Republicans to vote for another candidate. Had four more Republicans joined them, Boehner would have been denied re-election on the first ballot.

But as recently as November 15, 2014, Bridenstine, who won re-election without any opposition from either party, announced in an op-ed that he would support Boehner for a third term as Speaker, seeing no practical way to stop his re-election after the caucus renominated him:

An effort to replace Speaker Boehner would require several steps, each offering very little chance of success. The first step would be to rally enough Republican dissenting votes to block a 50-percent-plus-l vote on the floor. The Republicans have a historically high 60-seat majority in the newly elected 114th Congress, possibly higher as midterm election vote counts continue. With this large of a majority, the probability of securing enough dissenting votes is remote, especially after a private nomination meeting.

If 30 or more Republicans voted for someone else and Speaker Boehner did not get a 50-percent-plus-l vote, a second private meeting of the Republican Conference would occur. At that meeting the dissenting members would have to withstand pressure from the balance of the Republican conference. The minority of Republicans would have to offer an alternative candidate who the majority of Republicans would accept. The probability that there would be 30 or more dissenters is virtually zero, and likewise the chance that the majority of Republicans would capitulate to the minority is near zero.

If the minority of the conference somehow prevailed, there would be another vote on the floor, again requiring a 50-percent-plus-1 majority. This time, members of the original majority would vote against the new Republican nominee to block the minority. The process would be in shambles, the public would be outraged, and Democrats would be strengthened. If this impossible scenario happened, it would be the worst outcome for those of us who have been fighting for the conservative movement.

My goal has always been to do what is right for our country, regardless of the political consequences. In my first term, with a smaller Republican majority, I voted against Speaker Boehner on the floor believing that we could deny him a 50-percent-plus-l majority. However, Rep. Boehner was elected as several potential dissenters succumbed to pressure. While that effort may have been the right move under a smaller Republican majority, it is not the right move under a larger majority.

In his January 2, 2015, press release, Bridenstine explains that Boehner's support for the CR/Omnibus cost him Bridenstine's vote:

Like President Obama, Speaker Boehner must have heard voices that didn't vote. Together they crafted the CR/Omnibus, a $1.1 trillion spending bill which funded the government for 10 months and blocked our newest elected Republicans from advancing conservative policy and delivering on campaign promises. With this vote, Republicans gave away the best tool available to rein in our liberal activist President: the power of the purse. The power of the purse is Congress' Constitutional strength.

For the next 10 months, the CR/Omnibus will fulfill Obama's ambition of creating an even larger constituency of dependency on Obamacare. The President's goal has always been to create as much dependency as possible before enforcing the destructive employer mandate. The CR/Omnibus hands the liberals that victory. This is unconscionable after watching the campaign rhetoric that won such decisive victories for the GOP....

The Constitution requires the President to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. He has refused to enforce the laws on border security, Obamacare, illicit drugs, and the release of detained terrorists. His activism in his last two years has accelerated to include executive amnesty, initiating international climate deals without a treaty, and establishing an embassy in Cuba without consulting Congress. When our Constitution is under assault and House Republicans give away our Constitutional power of the purse, they share the guilt of abandoning our founding principles.

(Bridenstine actually could have stopped the CR/Omnibus by voting against the rule to bring it to the floor, but rejected that tactic, thinking it unlikely to succeed. As it happened, one more vote against would have been sufficient to stop the bill.)


Louis Gohmert's statement:

This was always about one thing -trying to have a Speaker who was sensitive to the will of the American voters. As I repeatedly made clear, this was never about one person.

We knew that if everyone were present, we needed 29 votes for anyone other than the current Speaker. If we achieved that, then either after the first ballot or second, we would have a conference of only Republican members of Congress to likely agree on a compromise candidate. The goal was to have a new Speaker with wisdom and honesty to lead the Congress. The fight does not end today. ...

After being told that we should now all come together and work together, we have been told late today that two of our Congressmen are being taken off of the committee they were on, simply for voting like their voters wanted. So, it appears before we can work together, we are now going to have another fight. It would be a shame if the Speaker of the House who has so much power is a sore winner."

Erick Erickson, a leading voice calling for Boehner's ouster urges grace toward those who voted for Boehner's re-election.

Leon H. Wolf urges conservatives to take heart:

The simple fact is that what happened today in the Speaker election is unprecedented in modern politics. Speakers of the House who gain seats do not face defections on this order, or anything even remotely like it. The fact that Boehner had 25 (at least) defections despite the absence of a credible challenger speaks volumes about the fact that the culture in the GOP Caucus is changing - even if it is changing slower than some would like to see it change.

I got some flak for pointing out that Bridenstine could have blocked the CR/Omnibus by voting against the rule to bring it to the floor -- he would have been the one-more-vote the opposition needed. It was suggested that noticing this is nitpicking his tactics when I should be applauding without reservation. But at the time, Erick Erickson and others believed the key vote was the vote against the rule. If the CR/Omnibus reached the floor it would pass, because it would receive enough Democrat votes to make up for any Republican defections. A Politico article about the revenge planned by Boehner and his lieutenants against GOP dissidents appears to confirm the substantive importance of the vote on the rule:

The House Republican leadership is carefully reviewing the list of members who voted against the speaker and those who opposed a procedural motion in December on the so-called "crominibus," the $1.1 trillion spending package to keep the government open through to September. Top Republican sources suggested that the process could take months to unfold.

While I applaud Bridenstine's leadership in the attempt to defeat Boehner, his decision not to use the power in his hand to block CR/Omnibus was a surprising move toward pragmatism over principle, as was his decision back in November to support Boehner as the GOP caucus's nominee for speaker. When a planet wobbles, astronomers look for an object exerting gravitational pull. Whose pull made Jim Bridenstine wobble?

Edited from the version originally published on December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to anyone who happens by BatesLine today.

As a Holland Hall high school student, I attended and sang in the annual service of Christmas lessons and carols at Trinity Episcopal Church, modeled after the annual Christmas Eve service from the chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

At the beginning of the service, after the processional, Father Ralph Urmson-Taylor would read the bidding prayer. Confessing Evangelical has it as I remember it. It's worth a moment of your time to ponder.

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us: Our Father, which art in heaven...

(In some versions, the prayer for "all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love" is dropped, perhaps because of political correctness and religious timidity. I was happy to hear those words on today's broadcast from Kings College. Who needs prayer more than those who reject the Way, the Truth, and the Life?)

The phrase "upon another shore, and in a greater light" always gives me goosebumps as I think about friends and family who are no longer with us, but who are now free from pain and delighting in the presence of the Savior they loved so dearly in this life. Especially this year, I think about my mother-in-law, who left us in March 2013 after a two-year battle with cancer and my sister-in-law, who succumbed to cancer this January. As my wife said back on her first Easter without her mom, "For her, it's Easter every day."

I think, too, of others we lost too soon. Steve Arnold was felled by a heart attack less than a month ago. Steve was an early Tulsa blogger, starting a blog called Tulsa Chiggers back in 2006, with a focus on education. In recent years, Steve traveled to Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia with the organization Grace Notes to teach and train Christian pastors and teachers. He was a man of deep convictions and irenic temperament, and it was a blessing to have known him. His family will spend their first Christmas without him, but Steve will spend his first Christmas rejoicing "upon another shore, and in a greater light."

Which brings us to the final verses of the Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness, Men of Old":

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!


On December 8, 2013, Holland Hall celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Lessons and Carols service, and I was among the alumni privileged to join the Holland Hall Chorus in two of the anthems under the baton of retired director David Rollo and current director Steve Dyer. You can watch the entire Holland Hall 50th Anniversary Lessons and Carols online. Here is a six-minute "trailer" of Lessons and Carols.

If you're reading this on Christmas Eve, you can listen to a replay of the annual Lessons and Carols service from Kings College Cambridge at 10 p.m. Central Time on KWTU 88.7. This year's broadcast will be available for the next four weeks on the BBC website. (Here's a direct link to the WMA stream, courtesy iplayerconverter.co.uk, should you want to use VLC to download for offline listening.)

Michael C. Morgan ponders the meaning of "A Charlie Brown Christmas": "Christmas in a Minor Key."

John Piper explains what Christmas is all about in 115 words:

Christmas means that a king has been born, conceived in the womb of a virgin. And this king will reign over an everlasting kingdom that will be made up of millions and millions of saved sinners. The reason that this everlasting, virgin-born king can reign over a kingdom of sinners is because he was born precisely to die. And he did die. He died in our place and bore our sin and provided our righteousness and took away the wrath of God and defeated the evil one so that anyone, anywhere, of any kind can turn from the treason of sin to the true king, and put their faith in him, and have everlasting joy.

Mark Steyn offers "a cornucopia of Yuletide delights from the Santa Steyn grotto - carols and lessons, movies and memories" in articles from his wide-ranging archives. Some links are light-hearted (e.g., an article about Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside," but he reminds us of our suffering brethren in the Middle East. He first wrote these words in 2011, but the situation is even worse today:

On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the "Arab Spring" is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.

Oklahoma's U. S. Senator Tom Coburn did not suffer from senioritis. He made the most of every minute of the final weeks of his ten years in the Senate.

On December 9, Coburn issued the latest and last in his long-running series of reports on government waste. Tax DecoderTom_Coburn-Tax_Decoder-2014.pdf, an encyclopedic 320-page report covering "more than 165 tax expenditures worth over $900 billion this year and more than $5 trillion over the next five years."

The Tax Decoder report looks at tax breaks both well-known and obscure which complicate the tax code and boost the deficit, often enabling lavish living at taxpayer expense. In true Coburn style, there are no sacred cows -- the report notes the special status of Oklahoma's former tribal territory on p. 213, calls for an end to the parsonage allowance on p. 192, and devotes an entire chapter to non-taxable military compensation -- but the information is provided in a thorough and dispassionate manner. Your mind will boggle at the subsections of 501(c) that you never knew existed, and yes, it's very possible for people to get very wealthy off of a non-profit organization. Here's Coburn's press conference announcing the Tax Decoder report. There's even a 60-second trailer for the report:

Coburn's final foray against fiscal futility was to object to a well-intentioned but wasteful and duplicative bill:

While well-intentioned, H.R. 5059 would do little to change or improve the deplorable situation at the VA, which is providing substandard medical care for the country's military heroes. The bill creates several new programs at the VA and authorizes $22 million in new federal spending. In almost every case, however, the VA already has the tools and authorities it needs to address these serious problems. Further concerns with the legislation can be viewed here.

"Congress should hold VA bureaucrats accountable for their failing programs and substandard medical care instead of passing legislation that will do little to solve the tragic challenge of veteran suicides." said Senator Coburn. "Our military heroes deserve more than false promises. It is dishonest for Congress to pretend that passing yet another bill will finally solve the challenges plaguing the VA."

As always, Coburn's colleagues found it easier to vote more money at a problem than to do the hard work of oversight of the money they'd already spent. As always, the drive-by media found it easier to snipe at Coburn for "hating veterans" than to pressure Coburn's colleagues to exercise the kind of oversight and reform that would actually help veterans.

Earlier in the year, Coburn produced an exposé of the shameful treatment of veterans at the hands of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

On his very last day as a senator, Coburn introduced legislation to "improve the integrity of the [Social Security] disability insurance program, support working Americans with disabilities, and protect benefits for current and future generations." The current system makes it too easy for some to game the system while others wait far too long to receive benefits, and it discourages disabled persons who want to work from doing so. From the beginning to the end of his congressional career, Coburn addressed the disconnect between good intentions and the actual effect of government programs.

Coburn's careful documentation of government waste proved to anyone who cared that we could solve the deficit problem. The lack of action in response proved that his colleagues -- and the voters who elected them -- aren't serious about fixing the problem.

Andrew Ferguson, writing in the Weekly Standard, salutes Coburn as "a model senator":

"In any election," Tom Coburn often says, "you should vote for the candidate who will give up the most if they win." All things being equal, we should prefer politicians who have accomplished something in their lives beyond government work--and who are willing to sacrifice it, at least temporarily, to serve the country at a cost to their convenience and comfort. During his 6 years in the House of Representatives and 10 more in the Senate, Coburn has embodied his own principle....

...Coburn calls himself a "citizen legislator," and the archaic title fits. Single-handed, he restored the phrase "public service" to good repute in Washington, at least for his admirers.

He's done so by being a pest. This is the kindest word we can come up with, though enemies both in and of out of his party prefer surlier tags like crank and headcase. Coburn commandeered every parliamentary maneuver available to a lone senator and used his mastery to slow the Senate down and draw attention to the untoward details of business-as-usual: absurd expenditures, cheap favors for the well-to-do, presidential appointments for dolts and clowns, and every imaginable accounting trick in service of parochial rather than national interests, all of it undertaken on borrowed money. His endless amendments and points of order became a kind of shaming, directed at people who long ago abandoned shame. Coburn trained an outsider's eye on the work of insiders and delivered the news, usually bad. "If we applied the same standards to Congress that we apply to Enron," he once said of congressional book-juggling, "everybody here would go to jail."

In his farewell speech to the Senate, Coburn paid tribute to congressional staff and the staff of oversight offices in the executive branch who gathered data for his reports and helped him craft reform legislation. He affirmed his faith in our country and our ability to solve our problems if we choose to do so, and he saluted his Democratic committee counterpart, Tom Carper of Delaware, for his willingness to work together to solve problems. He recalled the brilliance of the Founders, their insight into human nature and the causes of failure of the republics that preceded ours, and their understanding of the blessings of limited government.

Coburn called his colleagues' attention to their oath of office and noted that it makes no mention of the Senator's state:

Your State isn't mentioned one time in that oath. Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties. It is not to provide benefits for your State. That is where we differ. That is where my conflict with my colleagues has come. It is nice to be able to do things for your State, but that isn't our charge. Our charge is to protect the future of our country by upholding the Constitution and ensuring the liberty that is guaranteed there is protected and preserved.

Coburn pointed out the power of one Senator to advance, change, or stop legislation. The rules involved are not "arcane," as they are often described, but rarely used, even though they exist to protect liberty and to force compromise. He called his colleagues to exercise knowledgeable oversight:

Each Member of the Senate has a unique role to participate and practice oversight, to hold the government accountable, and that is part of our duties, except most often that is the part of our duties that is most ignored.

To know how to reach a destination, you must first know where you are, and without oversight -- effective, vigorous oversight -- you will never solve anything. You cannot write a bill to fix an agency unless you have an understanding of the problem, and you can only know this by conducting oversight, asking the tough questions, holding the bureaucrats accountable, find out what works and what doesn't, and know what has already been done.

Effective oversight is an effective tool to expose government overreach and wasteful spending, but it also markedly exposes where we lose our liberty and our essential freedoms....

...quite frankly, we don't make great decisions because we don't have the knowledge. Then what knowledge we do have we transfer to a bureaucracy to make decisions about it when we should have been guiding those things.

You can see video of Tom Coburn's farewell address and read the official transcript after the jump.

Christmas is approaching along with the end of the school semester, which means that groups of talented young (and not-so-young) Tulsa musicians are presenting concerts.

Thursday, December 18, 2014, at 6 p.m., the Barthelmes Conservatory will hold its winter open concert at All Souls Unitarian Church, 30th Street & Peoria, just north of Tulsa's Brookside district. A select number of students in instrumental and vocal music will perform the pieces they've been perfecting all semester. Admission is free, and a reception will follow.

Friday, December 19, 2014, at 8:00 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will present their Holiday Concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. The evening will include traditional Christmas carols and anthems and a special addition: John Rutter's choral setting of Kenneth Grahame's classic story, "The Reluctant Dragon." Admission is $10 for adults, free for students, and a reception will follow.


A favorite college Christmastime memory was hearing the MIT Brass Ensemble playing Christmas carols in the vast, acoustically live space of Lobby 7. If you can't get to Cambridge, there's something close to home that should be even better: Sunday, December 21, 2014, at 5:00 p.m., the Tulsa Symphony Brass and organist Casey Cantwell will perform a brass and organ concert of Christmas favorites at Trinity Episcopal Church, presented by Music at 501. Tickets are available at the door and online: $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.


In the spotlight

Oklahoma Election 2014

Before you vote on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, check out...

BatesLine ballot card endorsements for
the Oklahoma 2014 General Election,
including state questions, district judge races,
and judicial retention questions.

Full archive of BatesLine coverage of the 
Oklahoma 2014 election.

Full archive of BatesLine coverage of
2014 Tulsa city & county elections.


BatesLine Linkblog

Latest links of interest:

European 'No-Go' Zones: Fact or Fiction?

The Gatestone Institute links to dozens of reports in the French media about neighborhoods and suburban districts where "where police and gendarmerie cannot enforce the Republican order or even enter without risking confrontation, projectiles, or even fatal shootings." A couple of examples:

"The Socialist mayor of Amiens, Gilles Demailly, has referred to the Fafet-Brossolette district of the city as a 'no-go zone' where 'you can no longer order a pizza or get a doctor to come to the house.' Europe 1, one of the leading broadcasters in France, has referred to Marseille as a 'no-go zone' after the government was forced to deploy riot police, known as CRS, to confront warring Muslim gangs in the city. The French Interior Ministry said it was trying to 'reconquer' 184 square kilometers (71 square miles) of Marseille that have come under the control of Muslim gangs.

"The French newspaper Le Figaro has referred to downtown Perpignan as a 'veritable no-go zone' where 'aggression, antisocial behavior, drug trafficking, Muslim communalism, racial tensions and tribal violence' are forcing non-Muslims to move out. Le Figaro also reported that the Les Izards district of Toulouse was a no-go zone, where Arab drug trafficking gangs rule the streets in a climate of fear....

"Also in Aubervilliers, the magazine Charlie Hebdo reported in 2012 that the town hall was obligating non-Muslim men who want to marry Muslim women to convert to Islam first, even though France is ostensibly a secular republic....

"In 2014, Le Figaro published the contents of a leaked intelligence document that warns about the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in French schools in Muslim ghettoes. The 15-page document provides 70 specific examples of how Muslim radicals are taking over ostensibly secular schools throughout the country. These include: veiling in playgrounds, halal meals in the canteen, chronic absenteeism (bordering 90% in some parts of Nîmes and Toulouse) during religious festivals, clandestine prayer in gyms or hallways...."

RELATED: The Washington Post reports that CNN hosts and guests spoke about "no-go zones" as a reality but, unlike Fox News, hasn't issued any retractions or apologies.

BBC Genome Project

The BBC has digitized and posted online 86 years of radio and TV listings from the Radio Times as a starting point for a comprehensive, searchable database of its prodigious output. The public is invited to edit for scanning errors and schedule changes. Searches turn up some interesting stuff: In August 1941, C. S. Lewis began a series of five weekly talks on "Right and Wrong." Winston Churchill's first appearance is on 27 June 1924, on "Children's Corner" discussing Alexander the Great and Darius, King of Persia. Comedian Tony Hancock debuted on the TV variety show New to You on November 1, 1948. Better known these days for his political writing and filling in for Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn showed up frequently in the schedule from 1985 to 1995 presenting programs about Broadway musicals and the Great American Songbook, hosting "Kaleidoscope," a chat show called "Postcard from Gotham," a series on musicals called "The Land Where the Good Songs Go," and a musicals-themed panel game called "Let's Do the Show Right Here."

Ruairí "Frostbit" McSorley UNCUT + INTERVIEW - YouTube

A high school student discussing snowy weather in Derry provides an undiluted example of the local accent. This version has the full interview, plus a later report in which Ruairí reacts to the viral spread of the original clip. That's his normal voice, but he does impressions on his YouTube channel.

The Gospel Coalition: Book Review: Roman Catholic Theology and Practice
An Evangelical Assessment
by Gregg R. Allison

"Gregg Allison's new book is good news to all who have long desired a reliable theological guide in dealing with Roman Catholicism. Based on a painstaking analysis of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, it covers the all-embracing trajectory of Roman Catholic theology and practice. Instead of juxtaposing ephemeral impressions and disconnected data, the professor of Christian theology at Southern [Baptist Theological] Seminary in Louisville provides a theological framework that accounts for the complexity of the Roman Catholic system and its dynamic unity....

"Building on the "nature-grace interdependence" and the "Christ-Church interconnection," Allison helps the reader to make sense of both areas of agreements and disagreements while pointing to the hermeneutical grid set at the beginning. For example, the Catechism teaches a doctrine of "justification by faith." What the catechism means by "justification," though, is a synergistic work that is not forensic (legal) in nature but transformative and administered via the sacramental system of the Church and by taking into account one's own merits. The word is the same, but the theological meaning, confirmed by the devotional practices of Rome, strays far from the biblical understanding of justification. The same is true as far as all other key gospel terms are concerned."

Toby Rush: Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People

Toby Rush, Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Technology at the University of Dayton, has developed a series of (so far) 51 music theory infographics, explaining everything from notes on a staff and time signatures to chord inversions and rules of counterpoint. The handouts are available for free under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. Rush has provided PDFs of each individual page, plus a PDF with all the pages released to date. (Via Classic FM.)

Foxtrot Alpha: Exclusive: Meet The USAF's Long Awaited KC-46A Pegasus Tanker

Based on the Boeing 767, the first 18 KC-46As are due to McConnell AFB by the end of 2017, and Altus AFB will be the schoolhouse for pilots and boomers. MORE: Confessions Of A USAF KC-135 'Flying Gas Station' Boom Operator. And TSgt Jamie Morton, the "photog boom," shares dramatic photos of receiver aircraft from a KC-135 Boom Operator's point of view.

J. Ray Art: Pen and Ink

Illustrator Josh Ray has produced a series of ten drawings called the Ink Well, currently on display at the Cafe on Broadway in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. "Each of the 10 pieces is inspired from a hymn, and the images themselves are created solely from the words of the hymn, handwritten in ink over and over again. The Image is meant to signify the meaning or the imagery behind each hymn." The background of each image is the sheet music of the song, and even the staves and the notes are revealed to be, on close examination, the words of the hymn. The hymns illustrated are "Amazing Grace," "In Christ Alone," "O for a Thousand Tongues," "I'll Fly Away," "Jesus Paid It All," "It Is Well with My Soul," "The Battle Belongs to the Lord," "All Creatures of Our God and King," and "Our God Is an Awesome God." Prints are available for purchase, starting as low as $35 plus shipping and handling for a 9" x 11" print.

ShadowStats: John Williams' Shadow Government Statistics

There's a gap between Americans' experience of the economy and the rosy reports they hear from Washington. Tinkering with definitions is an easy way for government officials to make their economic performance look better than it really is, and it's a game that has been going on for years. Economist John Williams provides alternative calculations of key economic statistics, seeking to correct for the distortions that have been introduced into the numbers by nearly every administration since JFK's. From the site's primer:

"The first regular reporting of now-popular statistics such as gross national/domestic product (GNP/GDP), unemployment and the consumer price index (CPI) began in the decade following World War II. Modern political manipulation of the government's economic data began as soon as practicable thereafter, with revisions to methodology often incorporating positive reporting biases. As a result, investors and most economists, relying on the government's data, often miss underlying economic reality. "

Another article explains how the method for calculating the consumer price index has changed -- "CPI no longer measures the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living" -- and why it is to government's benefit to minimize the stated rate of inflation.

Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer: The New Yorker

"But the [airline] fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here's the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as "calculated misery." Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that's where the suffering begins....

"When customers miscalculate their schedules or their plans change, the airline is ready with its punishment: the notorious two-hundred-dollar rebooking and change fee. Those change fees are particularly lucrative: in 2014, Delta and United are projected to collect nearly a billion dollars each. And the greater social cost comes from those who didn't change their tickets even though they wanted to."

The airline fee model presents some dilemmas to the employee traveling at company expense and the company buying the ticket. Are all "extras" -- even luggage fees -- the responsibility of the employee? Will companies steer travel toward the handful of airlines that don't charge luggage or change fees? How much is wifi and enough leg and elbow room to work productively on the plane worth to a company? How much is it worth to have the employee arrive at the destination rested, happy, and ready to work, rather than harried, hassled, and annoyed?

Understanding old British money - pounds, shillings and pence

"I was born in 1943.  The money used in our village was:- farthing, haypenny, penny, thrupenny bit, sixpence, shilling, two bob bit, half crown, ten bob note, pound note and five pound note. The crown coin was limited. I don't think there was a five pound coin. I believe the guinea was, still is, just a value and not a coin or note."

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